Super-Secret Agent Spices!

ZeGreat Spice Detectives! by the Spice Secret Agents (oldest to youngest): Maorr (age 8), Ofri (age 8), Mathan (age 6), Aya (age 6), Ido (age 5) and Ophir (age 3 1/2)

We want to know EVERYTHING about spices, so we’re going to spy on them.

We’re going to be the world’s best spice secret agent spies. Kids are amazing secret agents. Even a zebra can be a secret agent.

The way you be a secret agent spice spy is to look and smell and touch and taste. You can do it when the spices aren’t watching!

Grinding Spices

We’re learning about every clue to find which spice is the most flavorful and has the strongest aroma.

We’re finding out who’s making them. Why are they making them?

We want to get to the bottom of this. We want answers now! We’re going to solve this mystery. But how?

ZeGreat Spice Hunt

We use our fingers to touch spices. We smell them. We taste them.

We use a magnifying glass to see what they look like up close.

We look at them whole and ground up.

We look in books to find out more and more and more.

We go to special classes by Whole Spice!

Ghost Chiles

What makes chiles spicy? There’s this chemical called (we looked in the Field Guide to Spices) called capsaicin. Chiles come from a family called capsicum which sounds like popsicle, except chiles are hot and popsicles are cold.

The hottest chiles in the whole world are called ghost chiles. They’re so hot they’re spooky!

All About Salt

Salt is not spooky at all. It comes from ocean water that evaporates and leaves behind salt.

Also we know that cilantro and coriander seeds come from the same plant.

ZeBot Cilantro

You can make spices taste different by blending them together. You can blend them any way that tastes good to you. That is the only rule: you have to blend them so that you like them!

We like to put our spice blends on baked sweet potatoes.

They are yummy AND very good for you!

Seasoning a Potato

Spices are fun!

Where do they come from? They come from the whole world! And they come from Whole Spice!

We will tell you A LOT more after we spy more. STAY TUNED!!!!!!

PS For more super-secret spiece info & to watch our super-spicy video, please visit ZeBot’s Kitchen!

A World of Spices ZeBot's Row of Spices

Composting is Cool!

by ZeBot, Lilliana (age 9) & the Planet DooF Kids

ZeBot Compost Sign

We went to visit Potrero Nuevo farm to learn about the best ways to grow vegetables, fruit and herbs. We also learned about the best ways to use scraps from those foods to help other plants grow.

It’s called composting and it’s a way to feed plants using the natural waste that comes from other plants. Composting is a way to break down organic material in waste so that it can become a fertilizer for a garden or a farm.

Kids AND zebras love the idea of recycling plants to feed other plants!

Kids AND zebras love the idea of recycling plants to feed other plants!

We walked around with Farmer Suzie who showed us the fields and greenhouses where everything grows. Then we went to where they have a compost pile. We did not want to get too close but our friend ZeBot the zebra said he’d have his picture taken so we did.

We asked how composting works. Basically you take scraps of fruits and vegetables and grass and whatever and put in in a pile on your farm or in your backyard. You can keep a container in your kitchen to keep your food scraps in until you are ready to put them in the pile.

Sitting near a compost pile is very, um, fragrant!

Sitting near a compost pile is very, um, fragrant!

When composting happens microorganisms in the soil eat the scraps and break it down to make a fertilizer. If you want it to happen faster you can add worms. You also have to move stuff in the pile around which is called turning the compost pile. It takes either weeks or months to make the compost. It depends on what is in it and the weather and other things.

There a lot of ways to use composting including the funny outhouse on the farm where we took a picture of ZeBot. You should not try to do this unless you are a compost expert because human and animal waste is poisonous for compost unless you know a bunch of expert things.

Proof that ANYONE can help make compost!

Proof that ANYONE can help make compost!

The best way for a beginner to learn composting is to start saving kitchen scraps then put them in a pile in your yard. Then wait for them to turn into fertilizer. Then put that on your garden to feed it. You could do this at home or your school garden if you have one.

Why should you have a compost pile? Because it is a way to recycle things like apple cores and vegetable peels and other things that someone might just put in a garbage can. And it’s really cool that the garbage plants can end up feeding other plants.

We should all compost because it’s good for the plants and good for us and good for the earth!

Save the Planet Painting

Wonderful Water Buffaloes!

Ramini Posterby Julianne, age 12

Today we got to see water buffaloes. The farm that we visited makes mozzarella cheese from the water buffaloes’ milk. You would think that water buffalo milk cheese would not taste as good as goat cheese or cow cheese. But really out of all of them, I think buffalo cheese is the best.

Every spring and fall the water buffaloes have babies and the mothers produce the milk that makes mozzarella cheese. Each water buffalo has a name that Craig, the farmer, gives them. I think that it is really sweet.

First-time mothers & calves!

First-time mothers & calves!

There were three pastures. The first pasture in the front was the babies and their mothers. They were mother buffaloes who had their first calves ever. The calves always stay with their mothers and never leave their sight.

The second pasture was water buffaloes who had their calves last fall. The third pasture had water buffaloes who were going to have calves this year.

Hello, I'm a water buffalo!

Hello, I’m a water buffalo!

The third pasture got split up. While we were there, Craig separated the young buffaloes from their mothers. It took about ten minutes. Usually it does not take that long but the cows were there.  A few times one of the mothers ran across the field toward Craig and made a loud honking noise. She wanted to know if her baby was okay.

We got to go into the pen where the young 1-2 year old buffaloes were.

These are 1-2 year old water buffalo.

These are 1-2 year old water buffaloes – don’t you love their hair?

We got to pet them. They loved when you scratched them behind their horns and ears, because their hooves cannot reach there. When you start to pet them, they lick you or chew your clothes.

Petting water buffalo is really fun!

Petting water buffalo is really fun!

They felt kind of rough and their horns were smooth. Their hair was parted down the middle. My favorite buffalo was Bob Dylan because he was the smallest of them all and really cute. His tag was #12. They were so cute. We thought that our friend Laura should take one home with her.

Craig Serving Cheese

This is mozzarella cheese — and Craig is serving it for us!

Craig gave us some samples of the mozzarella cheese to taste. It was a fresh new batch made yesterday at night. It felt soft and squirmy. It tasted creamy and different from other cheese.

Craig told us that a lot of people really want to buy mozzarella cheese from him because his cheese is really good. When you cut the cheese, liquid comes out and that’s hard to make that.

I think it was the best mozzarella cheese I ever had!

They start milking the buffaloes a few weeks after they just had their baby because that’s when the milk is there. When the mothers are milked for the first time, Craig brings their calf with the mother so the mother knows her calf is safe and sound. If her calf was not there she could get worried and not give her milk. That’s bad because they would be behind on milk for a day.

These are the barn cats! Super cute!

These are the barn cats! Super cute!

They milk the water buffaloes in the barn every morning at 8:00. Craig purposely spills some of the milk for the cats. There are about 7 cats who live in the barn. They were feral cats but now they are family.

When new hay comes to the farm, it is filled with mice, so the cats’ job is to catch the mice. The cats know when the hay truck is coming and you can tell because they all leave their beds and go by the back wheels of the truck. When is the hay is taken out of the truck, the cats chase after the mice and eat them. Sometimes they catch garden snakes and birds. Craig does not like when they catch birds because there are feathers all over the place.



I think it was an honor to go there and I think I will remember this trip for a long time! Thank you Craig for having us!!!

 Want to learn how the cheese is made? Check out this cool blog by my friend ZeBot Zebra, where he interviews the baby water buffalo at Ramini Mozzarella!

Want to write your own blog? Visit our project page at Green Ribbon Schools to find out how you and your friends can post your cool creative stuff — or email us at!

ZeHunger Challenge

ZeBot's Hunger Challengeby ZeBot Zebra

Zebras love challenges (including learning to cook and write without the benefit of opposable thumbs). And we’re always hungry for new things—new foods, new friends, new ideas.

So when I heard about the Hunger Challenge, I knew I wanted to give it a try—but in a ZeZillion years, I could never have imagined how powerfully it would help me learn about the world around me.

The Hunger Challenge is a five-day journey initiated by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, whose executive director Paul Ash describes it as a special way to “become an advocate for the hungry.”

ZeBot Lentils

How do you do it? Well, it’s pretty simple, but not easy.

All you need to do is live on a food stamp budget ($4.50 per person/zebra per day) that’s supplemented by a list of fresh seasonal foods and staples that are available at the local food pantry.

By asking people (and zebras) to participate in the challenge, the Food Bank is hoping to create a perspective of understanding and empathy.

“We can read articles and digest statistics,” Paul says, “but until hunger is a visitor at your table, it’s difficult to wrap your head around the complexity of the problem.”

I wanted to wrap my head and heart and stripes around the challenges: I know that 1 in 4 local residents go hungry every day. And in other parts of the country and the world, the problem is even bigger.

Read more of ZeBot’s story — and find Deborah Madison’s Caramelized Tofu recipe here!

Cooking Up ZePerfect Mardi Gras

ZeBot New Orleans Mardi Gras

If there’s one thing zebras love, it’s a celebration!

And when it’s Mardi Gras, which is all about local traditions, food, family and friends–well, that makes us so happy that our stripes start to turn colors.

Purple, green and gold, to be exact.

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras celebrations are the most brilliantly colorful parties of the year.

In fact, you’ll see the signature purple, green and gold just about everywhere you look.

Why purple, green and gold? Well, each color has a special meaning: purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

These became the celebration’s official colors back in 1872, when the first Mardi Gras parade brightened the streets of New Orleans.

“But what IS Mardi Gras?”  you may ask.

Great question! To find out, come visit me in my kitchen — right here!

ZeBot's Mardi Gras ZeSearch

ZeMystery of ZeShoe Pastry

ZeBot and the Shoe Pastries

When my friend Holly told me she was writing a book about Shoe Pastry, I was totally intrigued.

“What kind of shoes would make the best pastry?” I wondered. “And wouldn’t putting shoes in your mouth instead of wearing them on your feet (or in my case, hooves) make you kind of—well, sick?”

ZeBot & His Bowl of Shoes

Since I am a zebra who is supposed to know at least a little about human food by now, I didn’t want to ask those questions right away. After all, Holly Herrick is a famous cookbook author. Instead, I had a great idea!

I have another friend named Holly, who happens to be a super-smart Golden Retriever—and spends a lot of time in the kitchen. I asked her about Shoe Pastry.

Holly with DooF Cap

Holly the Golden Retriever said she’d never tried it, but she’d eaten lots of shoes (including some pretty expensive ones) and they were very tasty.

Still, I wasn’t sure—it just didn’t seem like you could (or even should) turn a shoe into a pastry. So I had an even better idea: I asked Holly the Famous Cookbook Author if I could interview her about shoe pastry. That way, it would make sense to ask lots of questions (even really silly ones)—so that’s what I did!

ZeBot & ZoeBot with Broccoli Choux Pastries

Guess what? It turns out I had the ingredients all wrong! You’ll find the right ones in the video below — and Holly Herrick’s awesome interview & recipe here!

ZePossibilities of Pumpkins

by ZeBot

ZeBot's Pumpkin Patch Buddies

I just made ZeGreatest discovery! You know those orange spheres that are piling up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores? They’re pumpkins! Okay, you probably already knew this, but pumpkins are totally new to me. (Give me a break: I’m a zebra!)

I always figure the best way to find out about something you never knew existed is to do a little detective work. My favorite farmers, food historians and librarians were happy to help out. I even asked a couple of dogs, since if they like something, you KNOW it’s going to be cool.

I found out all sorts of amazing things — and YOU can find them here!

My buddies Spot & Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

My buddies Spot & Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

Explore Planet DOOF!

Planet DooF Team with Y & Z

By Y-SpaceAlien & ZeBot

Exploration comes naturally to me and my ultra-curious zebra buddy, ZeBot. Case in point: we traveled a million, billion, trillion miles across the galaxies to get to Planet Earth.

“Why?” you ask. And I say: “Hey, that’s my name—don’t wear it out!”

Seriously, though, my name actually is Y!

Okay, let’s try that question again: “Why would you guys travel all that way?”

Well, the name of our home planet will give you a clue: there is no such thing as food on Planet DOOF.

If you’re wondering how we get our energy, I’ve got one word for you: Gloop. It’s a petroleum-like substance that’s ingestible, but has no taste, smell, texture, traditions, stories or anything at all that humans would associate with food.

As you can imagine, Gloop is just NOT interesting. And poolging (sort of like what humans call “eating”) takes about a nanosecond. So you can see why we’d be so excited to find out about FOOD!

Y and Z in the GastroPod - Planet DooF

At the moment, ZeBot and I are busy learning everything we can about Planet Earth food by traveling all over the world in our GastroPod, which is a really cool kitchen-rigged time-and-space vehicle that can journey anywhere (and to any time) faster than the speed of light.

While ZeBot and I are space-and-time traveling, some of our fellow DOOFians have arrived on Earth for a super-ultra-mega-important mission: to learn all about Planet Earth food from the very best teachers of all: Planet Earth kids!

So how are Zorp and Carl going to learn all this stuff? The way DOOFians learn everything: by playing games! The name of this intergalactically great game is Planet DOOF—and it’s totally out of this world!!!!!


Here’s how it works:

Zorp and Carl, two exploration experts from Planet DOOF, have discovered that earthlings are very unique because the foods they eat aren’t found anywhere else in the entire galaxy! Of course, this totally intrigues the DOOFians, so they travel to Planet Earth to explore this mysterious stuff called “food”. On their journey, they encounter a refrigerator and a curious boy who offers to help them build a sandwich from the best and healthiest ingredients they can find. And that’s how it all begins!

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 9.41.21 AM

Planet DOOF is the very first computer game to challenge Planet Earth’s fast-food advertising with characters and scenarios that are as crazy and fun as the ones that sell cheese puffs and sugar-packed cereals on TV. The game was created with huge input from kids—and it will be distributed FREE OF CHARGE to over 200,000 children in 2013-2014!!!


By now, Zebot and I are hoping that you’re as excited as we are about Planet DOOF—and that you’ll be up for celebrating the game launch at the star-studded Terrestrial Gastronomy event this Sunday, September 8th at the Planet DOOF Earth Embassy (440 Brannan Street in San Francisco).

In addition to the game launch, this awesome family event will feature great food from Chez Panisse alum Alan Tangren and a kid-moderated school lunch discussion among food experts Shakirah Simley (Bi-Rite), Jessica Skylar (Revolution Foods) and Esperanza Pallana (Oakland Food Policy Council).

Tickets are $25 for adults (discount code ZORP), $10 for teens (discount code CARL) and FREE for kids 12 and under at

3-2-1…BLAST OFF!!!!

ZeBot Planet Doof Logo